Monday, April 12, 2010

In Which I Swoon. Damn it.

This weekend, I attended the Annual SCBWI Conference for Western Washington. And I know what you’re thinking: “But... But... You know everything Bryan! Why would you go to a conference if you weren’t on the faculty?”

Read on, friends. Read on.

First, however, let me say that most of my conference experience comes from my job as a youth pastor. These conferences usually feature terrible music being played by dudes that wear too much gel in their hair and are perpetually tan. They’re filled with right-wing types who, if they discovered my true theological/political feelings, would stone me. Or, at least, give me the evil eye. I spend most of those conferences with a cynical half-smile on my face, trying not to shout out: “I voted for Barack Obama!”

This conference was different. First, it was filled with writers. And, regardless of their political leanings, I love being around writers. There’s a lot of hope in that crowd, which is fairly ironic when compared with the Christian crowd - but whatever. A different post at another time, maybe.

My weekend started with meeting my agent, Michael Bourret. I won’t go into any details, because I’m half convinced he maintains a secret identity as some sort of super-powered hero, and I don't want to ruin his cover. I was already happy to have him as an agent, but actually getting to meet him was a different story. I like to meet people, it gives me a sense of who they are... what type of personality they have. And everything about MB was exactly what I hoped for.

Wait... did I just swoon? Jesus. Moving on.

The best part of this conference - hands down - was connecting with other writers. From the unpublished (my new friend J.C. Geiger) to the New York Times Bestseller (Jay Asher) to the “Holy Crap she makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but I really like her...” (Suzanne Young) - that, to me, is the reason to go to these conferences. Meeting people who can inform your writing, who can share their stories with you.

I was lucky enough to also meet a couple of very interesting editors, painting a picture of the extremely passionate and committed men and women who help bring books to life. There insight was profound.

But let me stop here for a moment and suggest something:
Don’t be a moth.
Don’t rush to the editors and agents, thinking they’re some kind of supernatural force. (Save that for people like me, please.)

These are real people. They get tired. They get annoyed. And, yes, they may hold certain keys to all of our dreams - but they’re still just people. By far, the most often-asked question I got was: “How did you get Michael as an agent?” (Always said with reverence.) When I answered, “I sent him a query by e-mail.” There was disappointment.

Maybe they wanted to hear that I had an "in."

Or perhaps they didn’t want to hear that I worked on my book for years before I queried. I'm not sure, but the visible disappointment really surprised me. Of course, I did not mention that it took me 2 weeks to find my agent. (That's called self-preservation, suckas.)

My advice? Go and have fun. Meet the agents and editors. Talk with them. But don’t do it with the ulterior motive of, “I’m going to find out what he/she likes and then I’m going to use it against them in my query!”

Nobody likes this.

Instead, if you find yourself in an opportunity to speak with an editor, just do it. Bring up something they mentioned that you found interesting and just talk. I did it. And I ended up making a connection with an editor at HarperCollins that I really enjoyed. I admit, I was thinking, "Wow, this guy is pretty cool FANBOY ALERT, FANBOY ALERT..." But, at the end of the convention, I was just happy to have met a person who understood how much American Idol sucks.

One last thing... don't try to slip a manuscript under a bathroom stall door. That will result in one thing: another option for butt wiping.

Edited to Add:

1.) Mandy Hubbard: Fun. Writer. Agent.
2.) Greek Yogurt.
3.) Most of you have no idea what this means. I'm fine with that.


  1. Wait, were you around when I was saying that I was CONVINCED if Michael unbuttoned his shirt, there was a Superman suit underneath? He has a very Clark Kent vibe.

    Apparently we think alike. ;-)

  2. Also, WTF? I am so not mentioned in this blog post. It's like those beautiful moments we shared meant nothing......

  3. He forgot all about the greek yogurt, Mandy. And I love how I somehow made you uncomfortable, Bryan? ;-)

  4. Mandy: I think I was at the table when you said that. But I will still say that I am able to come to that conclusion on my own.

    And... this is like having a 2nd wife. I will add your name to the post, too. ;)

    Suzanne: Uncomfortable in a good way. Like, "Crap, this lady could easily do something really unexpected soon. I must guard myself from any unexpected/unintended social fallout."

    And... crap. I forgot about greek yogurt.

  5. "There’s a lot of hope in that crowd, which is fairly ironic when compared with the Christian crowd - but whatever. A different post at another time, maybe."

    I loved that part. The rest was good too though, thanks for sharing about your experience at the conference Bryan.

  6. Bryan--so glad you had a blast--ours is next month, and I swear, this time, I'll feel like I belong at a writing convention :)!! And I promise that I won't slip my manuscript under any bathroom stall doors again(jk).

    But I already drove my critique pages to the coordinators house, when I realized it was on a first come, first serve basis, and that I wasn't automatically in when I paid for a critique. Yes. Already breaking writing social mores. In my defense, it was so late that there was no way I would have gotten in, if I hadn't driven the pages there. And, it was only 25 miles from my house--we're not talking over night trip, here. But I definitely felt like a stalker. Urgh. I'll rein myself in at the conference, I promise!

  7. Great post! Looks like a fun, inspiring event.
    I can't wait for our next one! (I've only been to one conference, but attend SCBWI local mtgs occasionally).

  8. Always a laugh and a lesson here, thanks!

  9. I'm soooo jealous! :)

    This: "One last thing... don't try to slip a manuscript under a bathroom stall door. That will result in one thing: another option for butt wiping."


  10. Thanks everybody...

    Matthew: I enjoyed that bit too. It seems like there's a lot more despair in the xtian crowd, which is pretty sad.

    Heather: From what I understand, that's a pretty minor moment of anxiety. :) Some of the stories I heard this weekend were INSANE.

    Kelly: I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it. I'm going to the L.A. conference in August.

    Jonathan: Thank you, sir.

    Candance: I know, right? You should mention this to my wife.

    Larissa: Not sure if that's an urban legend or not, but you're right: awesome.

    Jordan: I won't re-hash the obvious joke here (pause). So, just: Bits.